Below are two diagrams that show you what every meal you eat should look like for optimum health, muscle gain or fat loss (simply change the number of calories injested to change between goals).
These diagrams come from the great minds over at Precision Nutrition (full article here). If you follow the principles outlined you will achieve 1-2lbs of weight loss per week, become leaner, gain muscle mass, and find the whole ‘what to eat’ question goes away.
Two Meal Types
Meals are classified into two types: Anytime and Post-Workout Window. Which one you eat depends on whether you have recently done any exercise.
Here’s the logic I use to decide which to eat:
- Have I performed at least 30 minutes of high intensity interval training in the past 2 hours? (YES – Eat post-workout window meal. NO – Go to step 2)
- Have I performed at least 45 minutes of heavy resistance training in the past 2 hours? (YES – Eat post-workout window meal. NO – Go to step 3)
- Have I performed over 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise? (YES – Eat post-workout window meal if your goal is muscle gain, otherwise go to step 4. NO – Go to step 4)
- Eat anytime meal
This logic should be applied to EVERY meal and snack you eat.
Anytime Meals are meals you eat any time you have not just done an intense bout of exercise. At this time your muscles have not been used and therefore do not need glucose – meaning you don’t need to eat lots of carbs.
Any carbs you do eat are likely to be diverted directly to your fat cells and stored as fatty acids – hence why you don’t see any starchy carbs in these meals.
Vegetables are the primary source of carbs in Anytime meals, but the amount they contain is low compared to starchy carbs and grains such as bread, pasta and rice. In fact, a large salad only contains around 15g-20g of carbs, but one cup of white rice contains 45g.
To prepare an Anytime meal, fill your plate with roughly 25% protein, 60% vegetables and 15% healthy fats.
Post-Workout Window Meals
Post-workout window meals are meals you eat within 2 hours of completing an intense bout of exercise. That means heavy resistance training, a long endurance session, or 30 minutes high intensity interval training session.
(You are probably already familiar with 1 post-workout window meal – the protein and carb shakes you take within 10 minutes of training)
A 30 minute brisk walk or run, a short game of tennis, an hour’s climbing, etc. do NOT count. Post-workout meals should NOT be eaten following this type of exercise.
Post-workout window meals differ from Anytime meals in that the fat content is reduced, and the volume of carbohydrate rich foods is increased.
This is to take advantage of the adaptations that occur to your cells post intense exercise. Your glycogen stores have been depleted and as a result your muscle cells become more insulin sensitive for a short time. The increase in insulin sensitivity ensures that carbs you do eat are put to good use replenishing those glycogen stores and helping to repair and build new muscle mass, rather than being directed to your fat cells.
To prepare a post-workout window meals, fill your plate with roughly 50% protein, 50% fruit and vegetables, and include a small side serving of healthy starches and/or grains (such as wholewheat pasta, rolled oats, brown rice and quinoa).
Regardless of whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle you should observe the meal timing rules above.
Eat a post-workout meal rich in protein and carbs within 2 hours of completing a bout of intense exercise to take advantage of an increase in muscle cell insulin sensitivity. Any other time opt for a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate meal.
Get this right and you’ll be rewarded with a lean, muscle physique that is effortless to maintain.
For more information, be sure to check-out www.precisionnutrition.com.